Is it just my eyes?
It seems brighter here in Florida than in Minnesota.
Maybe it’s just the joy I’m wallowing in after moving to the state of near-daily sunshine. As my dad says, “Just another perfect day in paradise!”
But the “brighter sunlight” thing got me curious. I know there’s a huge difference between Minnesota and Florida when it comes to sunset times during the winter and summer months. In summer, sundown is much later in Minnesota than in Florida. But in winter, that awful, frigid, teeth-shattering horrific time of year, Minnesota turns dark before the evening meal while Floridians are still swilling margaritas at the beach.
The reason is simple: the earth’s tilt. Sunset in Florida is more consistent since the state is closer to the equator. Since Minnesota is closer to the North Pole, there’s a much wider change as we seasonally rotate about the sun.
So does the earth’s tilt have anything to do with the brightness of the sun? Yes, dear reader, it does! The all-knowing internet hath revealed the answer to me: The Angle of Incidence.
First, what is “incidence?” Incidence in physics is “The arrival of radiation or a projectile at a surface.” (Source) In this case, we’re talking about the radiation from the sun in the form of light. Incidence is affected by the angle at which the sun’s light arrives at the earth.
The Angle of Incidence is “formed by rays of sunlight hitting the Earth… Rays striking the planet’s surface from directly overhead -- that is, at a 90-degree angle measured from the horizon -- are the most intense. At most times and locations, the sun forms an angle with the horizon less than 90 degrees -- that is, usually the sun sits lower in the sky.”
“The smaller the angle, the greater the surface area over which the sun’s rays spread. This effect reduces the sun’s intensity in any one place.” (Source)
Today’s science lesson has been brought to you by the TIL (Today I Learned) Institute.
So now let’s take a look at the second half of Jesus’ teaching on salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16. If you haven’t read the previous post on salt, you can find it here. Take a moment to read it and come back. I’ll wait…). Great, you’re back. Let’s look at the light part of this teaching.
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
The key is verse 16 that connects light and good works. What does that mean and how do they relate? Good questions. Before we focus on that key point, let’s first shed some light on this verse, pun totally intended.
What is light? Physical light is electromagnetic radiation that has many properties and functions. Even a casual Bible reader will soon notice “light” has a significant place in the Bible.
Physical light was at the very beginning (Genesis 1:3, 14) and will be at the end (Revelation 22:5). God’s physical presence is a blinding light (Ezekiel 1:27). When Jesus revealed His nature to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, the light was almost too intense for the three (“his clothes became dazzling—extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them” Mark 9:2-3, “dazzling white” Luke 9:29).
It was better than that moment in the Lord of the Rings when Gandalf the White revealed himself to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli with blazing light (Watch here)
Light is often used metaphorically in the Bible. Apostle John uses light in his Gospel to represent goodness, righteousness, truth, understanding and spiritual revelation, and God. He does the opposite with darkness – evil, wickedness, lies, spiritual ignorance, and Satan.
As our verses show, Jesus used light as a metaphor and an object lesson.
“Spiritual light” means awareness and understanding of the spiritual realm and things that can only be spiritually discerned. What brings spiritual awareness and understanding to us?
“The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130 NKJV). God’s Word acts as a light, illuminating that which is unseen. God gave us His word to reveal Himself to us, who He is, and what He wants of us. Once God’s word “turns on the light” and spiritual understanding enters our hearts and minds, we’re transformed into light-bearers. We now carry God’s revelation into the spiritual darkness of the world around us. It’s just like carrying a candle (or a million-watt floodlight in some cases!) into a darkened room.
Jesus is the original Light of the World (John 8:12, 9:5, 11:5). Why does He call Himself that? As God’s Word is likened to a light that reveals things not seen, so Jesus, the Word of God in human flesh, became the light that revealed the invisible God to us in a way that we can understand. It answered the question, “What would God be like if He were a human being?” Just as snapping on a light helps us see a room as it is, so Jesus snapped on the “spiritual light” so we could see God as He is.
How did Jesus reveal His Father? Through the words He spoke and the way He lived. “Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)
Jesus is giving Philip a big “duh!” here. He continues,
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves” (John 14:10-11) Jesus’ point? God’s Word in action through our good works reveals God in a human form.
Next, Jesus revealed to his disciples something particularly important. “A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.” Light is not to be hidden. It’s supposed to be seen! A city on a hill cannot be hidden, a lamp should not be hidden.
First, who can overlook a city, much less one that’s built on a hill? It’s unmissable! Many cities are built on hills so that they can be seen and found! That’s the point! God wants us to be so like Him that He is unmissable to people trying to find God. We’re meant to be His unmissable beacons in this world.
Second, what are lamps for? A lamp isn’t for daytime, but the night when it’s dark. And then, when it’s dark, who would light a lamp only to hide it under something? Ridiculous! That would defeat its purpose! We’re meant to reveal our Heavenly Father, not hide Him, to bring spiritual enlightenment to those stumbling about in a spiritually dark world.
So how do we shine? By our good works.
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Our good works put the spotlight on our Heavenly Father! How will people know there’s a Heavenly Father to praise if we don’t reveal a praiseworthy Father to them? How do we reveal Him if we don’t act like Him? Jesus is our model. His character and His actions bore witness to His words revealing His Father.
Actions speak louder than words, right? Well, our best witness of God is not grabbing someone’s collar and giving them the 4 spiritual laws. It’s good works of a godly life.
So, where do we learn what good works are that we should do them? The rabbis have an insight. Rabbi Benjamin Blech writes regarding Genesis 1:4, “And God saw the light (et Ha Or), that it was good,” that if the sun wasn’t created until the 4th day (Genesis 1:14), what was the original light on the 1st day? The answer is found in the number value of the first light, et HaOr. Hebrew uses letters for numbers. Et HaOr = 613. That’s the same number as the number of God’s commandments in the Torah, which instructed His people how to live right. We learn how to do God’s works by learning His commands.
“Light enables us to see with the vision of our eyes. The light of the commandments affords us the vision of insight and the clarity of reality as perceived through the prism of the Torah” (Secrets of Hebrew Words, 30). In other words, God’s Word illuminates and reveals God and spiritual reality.
Yup. Living God’s way reveals God to the world because we’re acting just like Him.
Why does Jesus call us “the light of the world”? Because Jesus is the ultimate Light, the fullest and brightest revelation of the Father. As His disciples, we have been transformed into individual “lights of the world,” tasked with carrying God’s revelation into the world in an unmissable and public way just as Jesus did. We have the same purpose Jesus had. How?
“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
That’s what being a “light of the world” means. As a born-again, on fire, Jesus-follower, your primary mission is to light up everything around you in a blaze of our Father’s glory through your Jesus-reflecting character and godly works! You are a revealer of the Unseen God, the Invisible Jesus made visible in your life.
As the Angle of Incidence affects the intensity of sunlight on any earthly object, so the Angle of Incidents (how overtly and lovingly we do good works) affects the intensity of God’s revelation on those around us. The more boldly we live the way Jesus wants us to live, the more directly the angle of God’s revelation shines on the recipient. Like an unhidden city and undimmed lamp, we’re giving people lots of opportunities to see and find God. The spiritually darkened may not Him see completely, but they will see Him more clearly.
Jesus’ teaching on salt and light imparts this important lesson: As salt and light have an effect on the world around them, so we disciples are to have impact and influence. That is our God-given nature, purpose, and assignment.
Like salt, we are to make life more enjoyable, act as a preservative and purifier, and create a thirst for God. Like light, we are to reveal God through our character illuminated through our good works.
If “salt loses its flavor” or the “light is covered,” we’ve lost our impact. But if we’re tasty and bright, then we’ll influence the world and show the way to Jesus.
Bland Christian and Work-less Disciple are oxymorons, terms that contradict the other. The idea of a “private faith” doesn’t exist in God’s world. Rather, we’re called to live full force in the public arena whether our society likes it or not.
We’re called to boldly live God’s way through good works and so doing, impact those around us, bringing praise to our Heavenly Father, and revealing the path home to Him.
By the way, that Angle of Incidence thing? Remember that. It could win you a million dollars if you’re ever on Jeopardy.